President Donald Trump is trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in six crucial swing states – all of which Trump won in 2016 – , according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released Thursday.
The poll found Biden ahead of Trump 47%-36% in Michigan, 49%-38% in Wisconsin, 50%-40% in Pennsylvania, 47%-41% in Florida, 48%-41% in Arizona and 49%-40% in North Carolina.
Narrow wins in those six states were crucial to Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton four years ago. He won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by less than one percentage point each in 2016. He won Florida by about one point, and Arizona and North Carolina by about 4 points.
The 2020 election is still more than four months away but Trump’s chances of winning the Electoral College would become slim or impossible if even half of those states break for Biden.
The Times/Siena poll is the latest in a series of surveys with unfavorable numbers for the Trump campaign, both nationally and in battleground states. The president has dismissed such surveys as “fake” and lashed out at the news organizations that commissioned them. His campaign sent a cease and desist letter to CNN for one poll that showed Biden leading Trump nationally by 14 percentage points, though other recent polls, including one from the Times, have found similar results.
In a tweet Thursday, Trump declared “phony Fake Suppression Polls have never been worse,” though he did not specifically cite the new Times/Siena poll.
The president and his supporters, as well as cautious Democrats, are quick to point out that polling in 2016 also showed Trump trailing in several of those battleground states.
The Times/Siena poll surveyed 3,870 registered voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin and North Carolina from June 8-18. The margin of error for each state ranged from plus or minus 4.1 to 4.6 percentage points.
In November 2016, the Times compiled an average of state polls and found Clinton leading Trump by 4.1 percentage points in Pennsylvania (where it gave Clinton an 89% chance of winning), 4.1 points in Wisconsin (Clinton 93% chance of winning), 2.4 points in Michigan (Clinton 93% chance), 2.3 points in North Carolina (Clinton 64% chance) and 2.2 points in Florida (Clinton 67% chance).
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told USA TODAY the numbers show Trump “is in a polling slump and he’s in a bad position for reelection as the incumbent,” but they aren’t “even vaguely predictive.”
“We make the same mistake every four years,” said Sabato. “Not that this poll was wrong, I think it was basically a reflection of what is true today. But the election – I used to say it is Nov. 3, but actually, it starts in September with early voting – but it’s still in the fall. We have a whole season and a half to go.”
Sabato was optimistic that pollsters have learned from their mistakes four years ago. He was encouraged they are giving greater weight to respondents’ education level – a key demographic factor in 2016 he said was largely overlooked – and conducting more polls in states that might have previously been assumed to lean Democratic or Republican.
“What really gives me more confidence is that nobody wants to be wrong again on the big one,” Sabato said. “Everybody got hit over the head with a two-by-four (in 2016), and generally, that makes you never want to get hit over the head with a two-by-four again.”
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